If I had to choose one bait to fish with for the rest of my life it would be a Ned Rig, probably because I am a numbers guy when it comes to bass.
I love catching a ton of fish and this bait does just that, especially when nothing else seems to work. So yes, I have been a fan of the Z-Man Finesse TRD since it came out.
Z-Man now offers a number of other finesse soft plastics, all designed for tweaking the Ned Rig. I spent the last year playing with several of them on a variety of waters and have found that they all have their own place and purpose.
Ned Rig Phenomenon
The Ned Rig is one of the most basic rigs there is--a simple mushroom head jig with a soft plastic bait threaded on the back.
It has been a few years since the Ned Rig craze swept the nation and if anything, the Ned Movement is getting even stronger. Z-Man made big moves to address the catch-everything bait.
With the Finesse TRD being one of the first true Ned Rig specific baits on the market, many don’t commonly think about the other alternatives that are now available from Z-Man, which has unveiled several other baits specifically for the ultra-finesse Ned Rig.
Over the past several months, I made it a mission to fish all the new shapes and sizes Z-Man offers and learned that it makes sense to save a place in your box for the different options as there is a time and place for each of them--TRD’s, CrawZ, HogZ, TicklerZ, or Hula StickZ.
Different Body Varieties
It’s hard to beat what has worked so well for me in the past and I usually always start off with the Finesse TRD for the simple fact that I have caught 1000’s of bass on it over the years.
I typically use the TRD with an exposed jig head in open water or any place where I am not constantly picking weeds off after every cast. The small profile mixed with the subtle action is at most times all that is needed to catch anything swimming nearby.
When fishing the traditional Ned Rig, I like using a 6’ 8” or longer medium or medium light action spinning rod with a 3000-size reel. This rod/reel combo allows me to make longer casts without diminishing the sensitivity needed to detect a bite.
Largemouth and smallmouth are my primary target species. Often times when fishing this rig panfish will constantly peck at the bait. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the presence of panfish in the area and will intentionally stop to fish the section more thoroughly when they are present. More times than not, I have found that the abundance of panfish means bass are almost certainly to be around as well.
In scenarios where the panfish are out of hand I will opt for the Big TRD. The bigger profile helps ward off pesky panfish bites.
There are also times when bass respond better to baits like the TicklerZ or Hula StickZ, both of which offer quad tentacles off the main body of the bait. One of my favorite ways to work a Ned Rig is slowly dragging it on the bottom with long pauses in between. The tentacles on both baits provide the slightest bit of action as the body of the bait sits straight up.
The small amounts of movement are enough for bass to key in on when tracking the bait down. I prefer to use this style of bait when the fish are more active and keying in on forage scurrying across the floor.
There are two jig heads that I like using in exposed hook scenarios. For the smaller 2 3/4” baits I like using the Finesse ShroomZ Jig Head; for the larger 4” baits I like using the Outkast Perfect Ned Head with the 2/0 hook. Moving to a larger hook with these larger baits improves my hookup percentages.
The larger hook is more difficult to fish in heavier weeds, so consider going to a stiffer rod and braid mainline/fluoro leader to give you the power to rip the bait free when fouled. This not only triggers strikes, it allows you to finish more casts than if fishing straight fluoro with a soft-tipped rod.
Finesse in Weeds?
Z-Man has put the perfect package together in fishing finesse through vegetation. That’s important because I spend a lot of my time fishing from shore.
The Z-Man Finesse BulletZ jig rigged with the HogZ or CrawZ is great for working through grass too thick to effectively fish a traditional Ned Rig. The BulletZ jig’s hook is designed specifically for Texas-rigging soft plastics. With the hook-point buried in the bait, it reduces snags, but does require you to set the hook harder when bit.
Most of the time I start with the TRD CrawZ but move to the HogZ if the grass is particularly thick. The HogZ’s slender profile slides through heavy vegetation better.
The reason for using a craw-shaped plastic is twofold. The first being that the appendages help create a ruckus among the weeds. The larger profile makes it easier for bass to feel and hear as it makes its way through vegetation.
The second being their streamlined shape - starting narrow/flush with the jig head and widening towards the tail end. The overall form of the rig allows it to slide better through cover while working it among clumps of weeds where bass are prone to living.
No matter what Soft Plastic or Jig Head you decide to go with, don’t forget to secure it with some Fishin’ Glue!!! The durability of the ElaZtech plastic has the ability to last you all day as long as the fish don’t steal it off your hook!